Going Green with Eco-Friendly Carpeting

If you are looking to make your home more sustainable, eco-friendly carpeting may be the perfect place to start. Most synthetic carpeting is made with petroleum, a non-renewable resource that can impact air and water quality, so it is no surprise that this environmentally conscious trend has emerged and is on the rise.

But "eco-friendly" doesn't have to mean "exotic"; these carpets can be made of natural or recycled fibers that are more common than grass, jute or abaca. In fact, you can retain the warm comfort and style of the area rugs you love. Following are four popular options for eco-friendly carpeting that will accent your home without harming the environment.

  • Wool: The most popular – and most expensive – natural option for carpeting your home is wool. It is soft and strong, and it is resistant to stains and flames. If that isn't enough, it is biodegradable and compostable. But before deciding on wool for your home, remember that it can be discolored by wine, can fade in direct sunlight, and it does shed.
  • Jute: Jute is one of the most affordable carpeting materials on the market. It is comfortable, too, and it is not only used to make area rugs, but it can be found in furniture coverings and curtains. Jute does become brittle and yellow from too much exposure to the sun, so it should be used in darker areas in your home. Additionally, it loses strength when wet, so make sure to keep it dry.
  • Sisal: Sisal is made from natural plant fibers, and it retains a durability that synthetic imitations can't provide. It is naturally stain resistant, which means that homeowners can avoid using synthetic cleaners or other chemicals to maintain it. There are limitations to this fiber, thought; given that it is organic, it can retain water stains. While it may be perfect for the living room or den, bathrooms and kitchens are not a good match for sisal.
  • Recycled: The best option for going green may be to purchase a recycled rug or carpet. This type of floorcovering is generally made from ground vinyl and nylon. Additionally, it is durable, produces less waste during installation, and saves carpeting materials from taking up space in a landfill.

It is important to not only select eco-friendly fibers for your new carpets, but to also consider products that have a great reputation. The Carpet and Rug Institute evaluates various carpets, and it bestows its Green Label and Green Label Plus designation on those that minimize volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) which can adversely impact the environment and harm the air quality inside your home. This will ensure that your green efforts will have the biggest impact.

Once you have purchased carpeting that is easy on the environment, make it last. Proper maintenance will ensure that your new wool, jute, sisal or recycled rug will have a long, beautiful life in your home.

  • Purchase a door mat: The first step in preventing dirt from being tracked across the carpets in your home is to keep it outside. A doormat will encourage family and visitors alike to wipe their feet before entering, therefore reducing the dirt that is tracked into your home.
  • Vacuum regularly: Vacuum two-to-three times a week to keep dirt from being worn into the carpet fibers. This will keep them looking fresh and bright.
  • Rotate carpets that are in the sunlight: To prevent fading, particularly with carpets made of fibers that will become brittle or yellow in the sunlight, make sure to rotate them regularly.
  • Clean spills immediately: Even if the material is deemed "stain resistant," always clean spills immediately.
  • Use a dry cleaning system: When the time comes to conduct a deeper clean, make sure to use a dry extraction cleaning system. Most natural fibers will absorb moisture, so it is important to keep them dry.

If you are serious about greening your home, consider carpets that are made of natural or recycled fibers. Not only are they eco-friendly, but with proper care, they can last a lifetime.

Jay Harris has been helping customers as a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area since 2005. Jay is also a contributor to Home Depot's Home Decorators.com website. His home décor interests range from providing advice on area rugs and carpeting to tips on home furniture.